A new study finds that women who read sex-related articles from popular women’s magazines like Cosmopolitan are less likely to view premarital sex as risky.
Researchers also discovered that women exposed to these articles were more supportive of sexual behavior that both empowers women and prioritizes their own sexual pleasure.
“When exposed to explicit […] messages about female sexual assertiveness in women’s magazines, readers regarded women’s capacity to experience and act on feelings of sexual desire more favorably,” said study authors and developmental psychologists Drs. Janna L. Kim and L. Monique Ward.
Previous studies have found that women’s magazines such as Glamour and Cosmopolitan frequently portray sexually-transmitted infections and diseases as ubiquitous, dangerous, and disgusting. On the other hand, these same magazines — often in the same issue — will have numerous stories promoting casual sex for women’s pleasure.
For the present study, 150 women college students were randomly assigned to read articles from two popular magazines. One group of articles pertained to women’s roles in sexual relationships and the other set about general entertainment unrelated to sexual relationships.
Researchers found that the group of women exposed to the sex-related articles endorsed more risky sexual behavior.
Furthermore, membership in this group was associated with ethnic differences among women of color and white women.
White females desired a more assertive sexual role and a belief that premarital sex was less risky.
Researchers believe the promotion of women’s sexuality by the media can both aid and harm young women.
“Our results suggest that the complex and sometimes conflicting representations of female sexuality proliferating in the mass media and popular culture could potentially have both empowering and problematic effects on women’s developing sexual identities,” noted the study’s authors.
The study, Striving for Pleasure without Fear: Short-Term Effects of Reading a Women’s Magazine on Women’s Sexual Attitudes, was published in the feminist journal, Psychology of Women Quarterly.
Source: SAGE Publications